Changing the Play: Father and son make transition of head coach position


Coach English shows his team the way. | The Hart Yearbook 1977 with original caption

Emma Lazarczyk and MaryKathryn Wert

The name Terry English goes hand-in-hand with the legacy of girls basketball. In fact, English has been the only head coach of the girls basketball team. He has led the team since it was started in 1976 and has continued to shape its reputation.
After 45 years, English has retired from his position as girls basketball head coach and handed the position of leading his legacy over to his son, Jeff English.
Ever since Jeff was a little kid, he spent time at basketball practice with his father. According to Jeff, he would watch practice and sit on the bench.
“It’s kind of always been a passion of mine,” Jeff said. “I grew up always hanging around Miege, always hanging around the basketball programs.”
Jeff spent most of his childhood in the Miege gymnasium and, according to Jeff, he was never grounded when he was younger.
“My mom and dad just wouldn’t let me go to girls basketball practices, and so that shaped me up right away,” Jeff said.
Jeff has always had a part of the program and actively participated even as a child.
“Jeff has been with me… since he was knee high,” English said, with his voice choking up. “He’s just kind of just like me. He loves the game, he loves to be around the kids.”
For the past 14 years, Jeff has also been working alongside his dad on the court as assistant coach. This season, Jeff’s job will look different as he takes charge and leads the team.
“There are a lot of things that I am going to take from my dad,” Jeff said. “He set such a good foundation here that my job is to continue that but add little wrinkles that make it mine, but at the same time keeping the foundation the way it is.”
Working as a father-son duo, the coaches’ bond creates a dynamic atmosphere on the court that shifts the mood of the game, according to both English and Jeff.
“It’s a bond that you have with a father and a son that not many people are able to have,” Jeff said. “You agree on a lot of things and you disagree on a lot of things. I think that has made our relationship stronger. All of the state — championships that we have won together — those are always memorable, but just the day-to-day is just as memorable too.”
The team has become a family for both Jeff and English as they have shaped the basketball program, they said. According to Jeff, he has received opportunities to coach at other schools, but he turned them down because he feels that Miege is where he belongs.
“Sports in general is a huge part of my life, the comradery of the competitive spirit of it, the sense of team, of community, of playing for your school,” Jeff said. “Miege has been a huge part of my life, I went to school here and graduated in ‘02, played football, basketball, baseball, you know I still have friends that are a huge part of my life from Miege, and I think sports kind of brings that out in you.”
Handing over the team to his son after all these years was not an easy decision, English said.
“It was very difficult, very difficult,” English said, as he looked over his shoulder at the girls warming up. “Finally doing it and saying it – it was tough.”
Jeff said that some players will play in college; however, most of them will end their career after high school. He hopes that the girls realize the friendships they create now are more important than the wins. The season may only last a few months, but the team is something that the players will always hold with them forever, Jeff said.
“I hope that sometimes [the players] just take a step back and realize that these are the days that they will remember for the rest of their lives and to really enjoy them and to cherish them, not get so wrapped up in being so serious about it,” Jeff said.
English started the girls basketball program and has watched it evolve over the years.
“It feels good to hand over the program to my son, it really doesn’t feel good to hand over the program,” English said. “I’m close to these kids and they mean a lot to me, and the program means a lot to me. But I know he’ll do a good job in continuing what we’ve been doing so far.”
After 45 years of building the team, English struggled with the thought of giving it up.
“Right before I left the hotel I told my wife [I was giving up head coach position],” English said. “Nobody else knew. Jeff, none of the other coaches. None of the players knew, until I came into the locker room after the [state final] game.”
As Jeff begins to lead the team, he said he hopes to take parts of his dad’s coaching style and keep applying them on the court.
“I love how disciplined [English’s] teams were,” Jeff said. “They were always ready to play. He instilled a confidence in them that showed on the court when they got out there to play games. They knew that if they did what they were asked to do, that they were put in a good position to win the game, and that’s really important.”
Even with the transition of head coach, the father-son duo will continue to work as a team to ensure the girls team continues to be a success. According to English, he will speak up when needed, but he will not get in his son’s way.
“We have a good relationship and that’s going to stay that way,” English said. “Just like when he was assistant coach and my assistant, he didn’t agree with what I was doing. There may be some things I don’t agree with the way he does it, but still, whatever happens he backed me and whatever he does I’ll back him. We have to live with that.”
English said he is looking forward to how the team grows without him as head coach and how his legacy continues.
“I didn’t want this to be a girls program, I just wanted it to be a basketball program,” English said. “I knew that the girls couldn’t jump as fast and in some cases can’t run as fast or none of them will ever be able to dunk or anything like that, but I wanted them to play the kind of basketball that people enjoyed coming to watch, and I think we accomplished all of that.”